Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Celebrating outliers

Vartanama, May '15
By Pawan Dhall

Among dictionary synonyms for ‘outlier’ are words like ‘non-conformist’, ‘maverick’, ‘eccentric’, ‘dissident’, ‘iconoclast’ and ‘outsider’. According to Wikipedia, in statistics, outliers are data points that are further away from the sample mean than what is considered reasonable. Outlier data points may indicate faulty data, errors in statistical or mathematical procedures or inapplicability of certain theories. But they may also exist because that is the reality and not because of any anomaly, bell-shaped normal curves be damned. Moreover, statisticians value outlier data quite a bit and take great care before deleting or excluding them, if at all they do so and thank god for that!

Engendering change – bit by bit

Insight, May '15
By Biswa Bhusan Pattanayak, Randhoni Lairikyengbam, L. Ramakrishnan

On May 15, 2015, a group of 36 transgender people from Angul district of Odisha obtained their gender identity change affidavits with support from local lawyers. Thirty-four chose to identify as transgender and two as women. What is the context and significance of this event, and what does it mean for the future of transgender rights in India? Members of Solidarity and Action Against The HIV Infection in India (SAATHII), a national NGO that facilitated this process in Odisha, share their experiences.

Signature campaign in Manipur for a transgender welfare board.
All photo credits: SAATHII

In response to a 2012 petition filed by the National Legal Services Authority concerning transgender rights, the Honourable Supreme Court of India delivered the landmark NALSA judgement on April 15, 2014. The apex court recognized the need for granting full citizenship, regardless of gender assigned at birth, protecting rights and making provision of social entitlements for transgender individuals. Following the judgement, the central and state governments were directed by the apex court to implement its recommendations within six months, that is, by October 15, 2014. See inset below for excerpts on the key recommendations made by the Supreme Court.

Senior living: Coming of age

My Story, May '15
Pallav Bonerjee on his tryst with psychology, people and destiny – the fifth in a series of personal narratives

Around June last year, I got an opportunity to acquaint myself with a new concept that seems to be catching up quickly with many elderly in India today. It concerns and seems to address many pressing issues that the elderly face on a daily basis. This concept is known as ‘senior living’ and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the traditional old age homes.

Margarita with a straw that is not straight

Cinemascope, May '15
By Niladri R. Chatterjee

One of the first things one realizes after even a casual acquaintance with feminism is that in a patriarchal society the male body is constantly projected as the only truly abled body. So, in a very basic sense patriarchy declares the female body as fundamentally disabled. Psycho-analysis tells us that this disability is a lack – the absence of the penis! So, by virtue of not having a penis, a woman is handicapped anyway. Hence, the benevolent patriarchal care and concern for the female body – those poor, weak things that are incapable of taking care of themselves. This handicap is, as it were, intensified if she has sight, hearing, speech, motor skills or any other impairment.

Bhadu calling

Clickhappy! May '15
Pawan Dhall files a photo-report on a visit to Birbhum district in West Bengal to record a film-making initiative on Bhadu Devi. The film, much like the goddess herself, has intrinsic links to many aspirations for personal fulfillment and a better life

Uchpur village is about an hour’s drive from Sainthia town,
nearest railhead after a four-hour journey from Kolkata.
Photo credit: Pawan Dhall
The Bhadu festival and folk art form of Birbhum and neighbouring districts in West Bengal has its origins in the story of Bhadravati, a princess who lived sometime in mid 19th century Bengal. According to one version of folklore around her, she gets separated from her lover because of the evil designs of a jealous king. Her search for her lover proves fruitless and she commits suicide. Bhadravati or Bhadu Devi is worshipped through songs, dance, fairs and cultural programmes in the month of Bhadra (mid August to mid September). On the last day, her idol is immersed in a river. Songs, mainly on fulfillment of wishes for a happy marriage or birth of children, form the main attraction of the festival in which both professional artist groups and amateurs take part.